Last week, Inverse Daily wanted to hear your thoughts on respectful tourism. Bob R. remembers being a tourist in pristine Antarctica, passing through on a ship with “no food, paper or anything that could blow overboard was permitted on deck.” To that point, Catherine G. recommends tourists “respect the place, leave it as you found it,” and Robert A., who grew up in Ohio’s Rust Belt, recommends future visitors “hang your hat over your heart out of respect, and shed a few tears for what once was.”
Every place is worth respecting — especially because they might return to visit you moments before your death. At least, that’s what a new study storming the internet seems to suggest. Find out whether life really flashes before your eyes in today’s newsletter, and in the meantime, take it all in kindly.
“On Wednesday, a flurry of headlines and a trending Twitter topic arose about a study published in Frontiers of Aging Neuroscience,” writes Inverse health reporter Katie MacBride. “Researchers had caught a rare glimpse of recorded brain activity in the moments preceding and following death. But can this actually tell us anything about what happens when we die?”
The truth is more complicated than social media buzz suggests, as it so often goes. But first, a quick look at what exactly the study shows: “An international team of researchers analyzed a continuous EEG — which measures electrical activity in the brain — of an 87-year-old man in the minutes before and after his death,” reports MacBride. “While the EEG was happening, the man suffered a cardiac arrest and died.”
In the man’s final seconds of life, the researchers noticed an uptick in brain activity associated with memory, dreaming, and alertness, making them believe that “some kind of memory activity was taking place in the moments immediately before and after the man’s heart stopped,” writes MacBride. “This also suggests that our brains remain active very briefly after our hearts have stopped beating.” But there’s not a lot of definitive conclusions about death to be made from this — the study has a sample size of one.
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Bonesetting is an indigenous healing practice guided by Islam and anatomy, and practitioners like Ali Muhammad Chopan have been dedicated to it for centuries. “Chopan’s father taught him how to set people’s bones,” reports Owais Gul in this feature with lush photography provided by photojournalist Adil Hussain. “But times are changing, and a new generation of bonesetters are taking this indigenous knowledge and fusing it with modern medicine to keep the tradition alive as an increasing number of people turn to the bonesetters — including some who might not have in the past.”
Though bonesetters do not typically receive medical training or schooling, experts are able to evaluate the severity of an injury by using senses that take years of fine-tuning. They place their thumbs and press on a fracture, “assessing the intensity of the fracture or the injury by touch alone,” writes Gul, but the latest cohort of bonesetters might also ask for medical reports or other shades of modern medicine like acupressure and X-rays.
But traditional bonesetting provides a spiritual and historical wealth to its patients, something hospitals in places like health infrastructure-dry Kashmir can’t do. “Throughout this troubled valley, the bonesetters’ healing hands continue to provide succor to many,” writes Gul.
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Join me in lamenting the sideways black hole, the “I was dropped on my head as a baby” of black holes. “Astronomers recently discovered a misaligned black hole spinning off of its axis by about 40 degrees,” writes Passant Rabie. “This is the first time scientists have observed such unusual behavior from a black hole, and they believe it may be due to a slight kick it received after its birth.”
The uncanny discovery was published on Thursday in the journal Science, and involves the strangest challenge to the X-ray binary system that scientists have seen. “X-ray binary systems involve a black hole and a companion star, each orbiting around one another while spinning on their individual axes,” writes Rabie. “Their rotation tends to be aligned with each other while being perpendicular to their orbital plane.” But this black hole is different — its 40 degree-offset is the biggest “ever observed in an X-ray binary system.”
Currently, the reason why this sideways black hole exists at all is still caked in mystery. But scientists are hoping that NASA’s new Imagine X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE), which Rabie notes “will observe the most extreme objects in space in X-ray,” could help dust it off.
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You dye your hair, switch up your closet, and rush into a completely different look, but no matter how harrowing your last effort to find out what you look like with bangs, the jewel-like Ormyrus labotus wasp takes self-transformation one step further. This wasp is more than it seems; in fact, its DNA reveals that it’s at least 16 different species.
“Writing last week in a paper in Insect Systematics and Diversity, researchers describe how O. Labotus, once thought to be one species, is actually several different kinds that all look extremely alike,” reports card story editor Jennifer Walter.
This is because the wasp has an approach to birth wild enough to rival your favorite Lifetime movie. “O. labotus, being a parasite, will lay its eggs inside galls created by other insects,” writes Walter. After spending five years collecting samples of 150 types of galls around the U.S., researchers determined that these wasps are “a cryptic species — one that appears the same on the outside but boasts a range of genetic diversity hidden in plain sight,” writes Walter.
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- On this day in history: On February 28, 1953, researchers James Watson and Francis Crick discovered that DNA takes the shape of a twisted-ladder double helix, breaking open the doors to modern biology. Their discovery was in part thanks to Rosalind Franklin’s research, which helped support the duo’s theory of a helical structure.
- Song of the day: “DNA,” by Danny Brown.